When I began thinking about this blog post, I thought I’d find some fabulous article or research to post about. Then, I got a phone call asking me to be on a television show taping on the other side of the country; left the classroom for an ice rink and CBS television city; and began my own technology adventure — Skyping into classes, emailing assignments, overnighting art projects to campus, and generally exploring my studies as a ‘virtual’ student. And so, I sit down to write this blog today and it occurs to me, what better experience to write about than my own?
I’m experiencing a virtual education today. I awoke at 5am(PST), emailed my ‘bring to class’ assignments, turned on my Skype, and eagerly awaited my professors’ video calls. During class I used my chat box to send messages to my peer review group as they spoke back to me about both my drafts and theirs. In art class I viewed projects on my computer screen as my classmates critiqued them [hanging on the wall in front of them]. The only difference between being on campus and virtually present was the interaction with my classmates walking between buildings. For even when my instructor took a pole of students that had chosen a particular topic, via his computer screen, he saw me raise my hand.
Never has technology been as exciting as it is today. While interacting one-on-one with classmates is one of the most valuable experiences on campus, the ability to access vast wealths of resources is invaluable for those who encounter opportunities or struggles that limit their access to the on-campus experience. I for one know that there is nothing I’d trade for my education at Yale, but I also know that, as we heard many times in opening day speeches, we should not ‘let school get in the way of our education’. And education comes in many forms. The better able schools are to provide logistical help when it is needed via technological means, the more educational opportunities will be realized in society.
While there are many pitfalls to the online educational opportunities, both for the student and for the professor and institution, there are many benefits as well. The academic world will always need great institutions but mediocre establishments may, and possibly should, be feeling the pressure of technology bearing down on them as great intimations spread their ‘virtual wings’. No longer will working students be bound by their city limits in accessing great lectures or forced to pay for sub-par instruction simply because that is all that is locally available. The internet is bringing the opportunity for education to the masses. Those that choose to take that opportunity and run with it can success like never before.
I am thankful for the internet and the generous understanding of my professors and advisers in allowing me to fit other exciting opportunities into my schedule. I’ve not taken the help lightly, no exceptions from assignments have been requested. Instead, I’m present at every opportunity, if sometimes only virtually. From my stand point, I’d love to be in the chilly fall air of New England, but if that can’t happen, I guess I’ll have to listen to lectures from a hotel in sunny California.
“Them’s the Breaks! “